Moxie Kitchen and Cocktails Plus Christmas in Sicily

Chef Tom GrayZagat ratings rely on three criteria for judging restaurants-food, decor, and service.  Each of those categories are critically important, and, in general, work as a reliable guideline for diners who want to take the pulse of a specific dining spot.


Depending on my mood, how much time I have, and whether I have a friend in the area who has already run restaurant interference for me, I’ll check Zagat, Chef’s Feed, Yelp (be very careful there), Slow Food,  and Eater in the hopes of uncovering the perfect location to fulfill my inner hunger for a special experience.


Pimento Cheese ToastOr I might simply run a Google search for a place that has a commitment to local products, local farmers-a “farm to table” reputation. That’s how I located Moxie-Kitchen and Cocktails in Jacksonville, Florida.  Once I entered Moxie and saw the restaurant’s open kitchen, and the availability of kitchen counter seating, I knew the odds were looking up for a meal I would remember.


Devilled eggsAfter taking a seat as close to the action as possible, I perused the kitchen and dining areas, checked out the menu after listening to our server describe some of his favorites, and made a number of food choices with my dining partner.  

I rarely took my eyes off of Chef Tom Gray, who was running the pass, making certain every order was right before it left the kitchen.  Every good restaurant has a captain who sets the tone for the flow of action from dishwasher to wait staff, and Tom was in charge when I ate at Moxie. 


Cheese GritsIf you really want to understand the soul of a restaurant, then you must get past the food, decor, and service.  They are necessary as standards for evaluation, but see what you can learn from whomever is steering the ship, and let your mind and emotions coalesce around that angle as you eat.  Here’s another exercise:  Do the actions of every staff member you see signal that given a choice they are right where they want to be at that moment?  If so, you are in for a great experience.

 At Moxie, Chef Tom and his partner/wife, Sarah Marie Johnston, along with their staff, have created a spot that melds great local/regional flavors with a creative, fun menu.  It’s an upbeat, casual, high energy place where the food is infused with their positive energy.  Every dish I  tasted made me smile from the depths of my eater’s soul.

 Take a listen to Chef Tom.  I’m certain you’ll enjoy our talk.

 After Jacksonville, we’ll head to Italy.  Liliana Rosanno joins me to discuss how her family celebrates Christmas in Sicily. 

One important note:  The LIVE Great Taste show at Green Building Supply will take place on the second Tuesday in December, not the first Tuesday.  Join me along with Susan and John Freeberg, and Michael Havelka on Tuesday, December 13 at 7:00 pm as we talk about and enjoy local chestnuts in a variety of dishes.